This about sums it up for me:
Oh, Despair! Woe is me!
There is no end of weeds in my garden! I noticed them as I was picking the umpteenth gallon of strawberries. I’m so sick living with all this abundance! Poor me!
That’s not a bad impression the “me” I hear inside my head. What a whiner.
You know what man? Every day is the same. I go to a great job working with highly intelligent, highly skilled people I genuinely care about working on products that QUITE LITERALLY SAVE PEOPLE’S LIVES! Then I come home to a loving wife and healthy, happy children to find that my dad and my oldest son have already put up the hay. All I have to do is move the cows and close up the chickens. Maybe play some video games after I pull a few weeds while drinking something cold. Then I kiss my beautiful wife and drift off to sleep in, as our FitBit reports, under three minutes.
Woe is me indeed.
I love the movie Groundhog Day. I went through a spell of watching it every day. In the movie, every day was the same. The same. Same kid falling out of a tree. Same groundhog. Same prediction. Same episodes of television game shows. Nothing ever changed.
Until he did.
The main character changed. Punxsutawney didn’t change. Just Phil.
I’ll come back to Groundhog Day in a minute.
This week I am reading The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. I am reading it. Present tense. I read a page, exclaim, “WOW!” then go read that page to Julie. Then I sit and think for a little while. I’m not going to share quotes. I just want to make a record that I’m reading this now. The book makes a study of management transitions and how to set your team up for success.
I’m in my first 90 days of a new assignment. While I seem to be fine with sharing my farming and fathering insecurities, I have real reservations about sharing my professional insecurities. But I have them. One thing I will say is that I currently have a level of anxiety I have never faced before. Not even once. I am afraid. I’m not afraid I will get fired, though. That’s something of a concern but it doesn’t keep me awake. My co-workers and customers are patient with me. They seem to understand that I have accepted a difficult assignment. I think I’m just afraid that I will let my team down…somehow.
So that’s enough about work. The Chris that goes to work is not the Chris that writes this blog. Different guy with different interests. But sometimes it is so completely taxing to pretend to be him all day that I have nothing left to give at home. And to get back to the Groundhog Day analogy, we’re talking every day. Every day.
Monday dad cut hay. The New Chris (the one with anxiety issues) sat and worried and watched the weather forecast and hoped the rain would go around us. It did. All week long. It poured rain just across the river. Not a drop here. Friday the sun was shining and dad was baling. The boy was out helping him. They had two wagons loaded when I got home from work…just as we were surrounded by showers.
We live on the plains. You can see rain coming in from a long way out. I went to get a fourth hay wagon and looked to the west. Sigh.
The good news is we had the hay baled. The bad news? All four wagons and the baler were getting a shower. Dad and I hustled to get things pushed under roof as fast as possible but something was boiling up in me. Something, in fact, boiled out.
The last hay wagon needed to go in the barn and, wouldn’t you know it, the sidewall of the tire blew out. Hilarious. Standing in the rain. Can’t push a loaded wagon with a flat tire. Just happens to be the best hay from the field too.
Dad was trying to back the wagon in with the tractor but that tire is a drag. I ask the oldest boy to make sure we didn’t hit a pole. I guess he started daydreaming about whatever it is 14 year old boys daydream about and I snapped.
I rarely lose my cool like that. But when I do it tends to be with people I care about the most.
The hay wasn’t that wet. The day wasn’t a bad day. Flat tires happen. But on top of a week’s worth of tension from my job it was all too much for me.
When I snapped it made it all about him. Listing his failures, his constant, endless, limitless shortcomings. That really doesn’t make the situation better for anybody.
I caught myself mid-explosion and just stood in the rain watching my enormous 6’2″ child shrink before me.
My father never did this to me.
Not even once.
Even at this moment, he stood back and let me work it out for myself.
I wish it was Groundhog Day. I wish I could do that over. I can never un-say words I said to my son.
Somehow I manage to avoid these situations in my professional life. Somehow I keep my cool under pressure. I had a situation recently where a server went offline on a Monday morning. I had never heard of this server before and had no idea how to fix it. Worse, I slept through the notification call. When I realized the situation I only had one course of action. I had to get that server online ASAP. That’s it. I couldn’t fix it remotely so I drove on in to work hoping and praying that the solution would be clear. The whole drive I cried out for help from the Lord. “Great is the Lord and Greatly to be praised!” “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” I stood on God’s strength because, while I know I promised not to share my professional insecurities with you, I am not really a computer genius. I’m just persistent.
Within 5 minutes of getting to work I had the server back online. Whew!
But the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. That was the beginning of the worst week of my entire career. Everything went wrong.
But I never lost my cool. Even when under personal attack.
So why did I lose it with my son?
I hope we never have a flat tire on a loaded hay wagon in the rain again. But, really, every day here is the same. The chickens need us every day. The cow needs milked every day. The garden sprouts new weeds every day. There are always dishes to wash. There is always laundry to put away. It seems they are always the same dishes and the same laundry. It’s Groundhog Day.
Every day is the same. And nothing I can do matters.
That’s not true.
There are things I can do. Things that matter. Things that lessen the burden on those around me rather than multiply them. My son has 14 year old insecurities. He doesn’t need me to list his faults. He, like me, is acutely aware of his own limitations.
Every day he needs me to show him how much I love and appreciate and cherish him. How grateful I am that he is my son. How proud I am of the man he is becoming.
In Groundhog Day, the day finally changed when Phil changed.
Goofy movie. Sure. But I think I can change our day for the better.